The IT skills shortage could limit the benefits flowing from Australia's National Broadband Network (NBN), according to Peter O'Connor, storage vendor NetApp's vice president for Australia/New Zealand and ASEAN.
Peter O'Connor (Credit: NetApp)
"The skills resource in this country is extremely shallow and getting shallower," O'Connor told media and analysts in Sydney yesterday, echoing recent comments from ANZ chief information officer Anne Weatherston and TechnologyOne executive chairman Adrian Di Marco.
"When you look at a roll out like the NBN, there's not going to be the skills to take advantage of that investment," he said.
O'Connor puts blame firmly at the feet of the universities for concentrating on full-fee-paying overseas students, who return to their home country upon graduation.
"It's causing untold damage to our industry," he said.
The skills shortage comes at a time when Australia is seeing massive growth in the need for skilled IT staff.
The value of data storage hardware shipped in Australia by all major vendors grew 61 per cent between 2009 and 2010, according to O'Connor. His own company experienced a 32 per cent increase in bookings in 2010-11. NetApp signed 221 new customers in Australia and New Zealand with zero attrition, with 58 per cent of those sales coming through the channel.
"It reminds me a little bit of the dotcom time," O'Connor said, with plenty of start-ups, rapid growth and the potential for sudden failures. "A lot of the same is going to happen here," he said.
NetApp is also seeing a "large increase" in its traction, with systems integrators, particularly those serving government and military customers such as CSC and Lockheed Martin.
To help address the skills shortage, NetApp is negotiating with RMIT University in Melbourne and Canterbury University in New Zealand to make NetApp certification training available as part of their undergraduate courses.
Demand for graduates with NetApp post-sales certifications is now so great that starting salaries of $110,000 to $120,000 are being offered.
O'Connor hopes that more universities will come on-board.
Asked whether NetApp would be encouraging other storage vendors to create similar programs, O'Connor's response was dismissive. "I don't care what those guys do."
NetApp recently scored third place in BRW's 50 best places to work list, something that O'Connor says is "a little bit disappointing; we were the first last year and second the year before."